Mindy Smith was born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., but moved to Knoxville, Tenn., with her father after the death of her mother in 1991. In the South, she soaked up the sounds of Appalachia and fell in love with acoustic, jazz and blues music. She moved to Nashville in 1998 to pursue a career in music and developed her unique vocal style, writing and acoustic skills while performing and signing at clubs and writers’ nights.
Smith won the 2000 Tin Pan South writers contest and signed a publishing deal with Big Yellow Dog Music in 2001. After the famed music conference South by Southwest in 2003, Lee Ann Womack invited her to perform “Come to Jesus,” after singing harmonies during Womack’s set.
As the only new artist featured on the 2003 tribute album Just Because I’m a Woman: The Songs of Dolly Parton, Smith revived “Jolene,” and Parton appeared in the video as well. In that same year, after years of refining her craft behind the scenes, Mindy arrived fully-formed with her 2004 critically acclaimed debut, One Moment More, and its hit single “Come to Jesus.” Long Island Shores (2006) garnered still more raves from the critics: “Smith’s best songs sound like little miracles,” crowed USA Today. The following year, she brought that same level of excellence to My Holiday, which the New York Times hailed as, a “…thoughtful collection from a great singer-songwriter who knows how to evoke the feeling of warm rooms on cold nights.”
After those triumphs, Smith slowed down for a while. “I took about two years off, and over that time, I just collected songs.” She wrote only when she felt compelled to pick up her guitar. “There are times I’ll write three songs in a week, and then I won’t write at all for a month or two.” Ultimately, this wait and collection helped her create her fourth album, Stupid Love, released in 2009. Musically, Stupid Love reflects Smith’s diverse personal tastes. “I’m influenced by all kinds of music,” she confirms. Some arrangements incorporate banjo or slide guitar; others are graced with strings, particularly the cello parts of Matt Slocum. “There was a lot of exploring and experimentation,” adds Mindy. On “What Love Can Do,” an uplifting rocker that sounds more like a product of Southern California than Nashville, she played a beer bottle; several cuts feature parts played on an iPhone. The result is an album as variegated as vintage Fleetwood Mac or Steely Dan.
Effortless as these performances feel, Smith is a perfectionist when she steps up to the microphone. “It is really important to me for every vocal to be as good as it can be, especially in the recording studio. There are some songs I do in one take and others where I have to go through and sing line by line.” While making Stupid Love, she pushed herself harder than ever as a singer, building and sustaining passages. “There were a lot of parts that required big, long breaths,” she admits.
Smith is careful not to disclose particulars about individual songs because she worries that might interfere with the listening experience. “People tend to relate to my songs because of their own experiences. And they’ll take what works in their own life away from this record.” But rest assured all her music comes from the heart. “Everything here is definitely from my personal experience,” she concludes. “Heartbreak, healing, all that stuff… it’s all legit.” And you can hear that honesty in every note she sings.
In 2010, as Mindy reached the end of her recording deal with Vanguard Records, it felt like it was time for a change and the one thing Mindy was certain about was that she did not want to hastily go into another traditional recording agreement. Although a difficult decision to part with her family at Vanguard, both parties agreed to move on but did so with great respect and appreciation of all that they accomplished together.
In August 2011, Mindy lent her voice to a hit duet with long-time friend Daniel Tashian. The song “Taking You With Me” is featured in the film and on the soundtrack to the newest Paul Rudd film, “Our Idiot Brother.”
Mindy continues to call Nashville, Tn home as she works on a new album that she plans to release independently in early in 2012.
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